by Kingston Reif [contact information]
A Review of the House Version of the Fiscal Year 2013 Defense Authorization Bill: Nuclear Weapons and Missile Defense
On May 16 the House approved the FY 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 4310) by a vote of 299-120.
The bill provides $554 billion for national defense (function 050). This is an increase of approximately $4 billion above the President's request and $8 billion above the Budget Control Act's FY 2013 cap on 050 spending.
If you thought last year’s version of the bill was bad, this year’s iteration includes a number of proposed funding proposals and policy provisions on nuclear weapons and missile defense that are even more extreme. The purpose of these proposals, spearheaded primarily by Strategic Forces Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Michael Turner (R-OH), is to:
- constrain and perhaps even block the Pentagon’s ability to implement the New START treaty;
- prevent the President and senior military leaders from making changes to U.S. nuclear posture beyond those outlined in the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review and agreed to in the New START treaty; and
- drastically increase spending on nuclear weapons programs and national missile defense
A number of House Democrats attempted to challenge these and other provisions in Committee and on the House floor but all of their amendments were defeated – or were not permitted to be offered by the Rules Committee. Amendments were barred that would have stripped a provision calling for the development of an East Coast missile defense site by the end of 2015 and a provision requiring construction of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility (CMRR-NF).
Due to opposition in the Senate, the final version of last year’s bill either eliminated or significantly watered down the objectionable provisions contained in the House version of the bill without compromising Congress’ important oversight responsibilities over U.S. nuclear policy. Expect the Senate to raise similar objections again this year, as the latest proposals would greatly undermine U.S. national and economic security.
On May 15 the Office of Management and Budget released a Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) on the House Armed Services Committee version of H.R. 4310. The SAP expresses serious reservations about a number of provisions, including the overall defense spending levels authorized by the bill (which exceed the Budget Control Act caps) and the sections that would constrain New START implementation and possible further reductions in both deployed and non-deployed weapons. The White House threatened to veto the bill if these sections are included in the final version of the bill. The White House also objected to provisions in the bill calling for an East Coast missile defense site, limitations on missile defense cooperation with Russia, and constraints on the President’s ability to address tactical nuclear weapons.
While Republicans decry the national debt and denounce unnecessary spending, the House Armed Services Committee is moving in the opposite direction by adding additional hundreds of millions of dollars for nuclear weapons and missile defense programs the Pentagon doesn’t want or need now and House appropriators do not support.
Summary of Major Funding Proposals and Policy Provisions in H.R. 4310
I. Nuclear Weapons Reductions
Rep. Turner (R-OH) offered an amendment in Committee that includes numerous provisions on the strategic force posture of the United States. The amendment was approved 34-28. The amendment was 48 pages and is identical to a bill he introduced earlier this year, H.R. 4178. Among other things the amendment would:
- Delay (and perhaps even block) implementation of the New START treaty if funding for nuclear weapons activities at the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and strategic delivery system modernization at the Pentagon does not meet the specific levels outlined in the Section 1251 report as proposed in the context of the New START treaty. The report calls for $88 billion in spending on NNSA weapons activities and $125 billion to sustain US nuclear delivery systems between FY 2012 and FY 2021.
- Prohibit any future changes to US nuclear posture and force levels made pursuant to the ongoing Nuclear Posture Review Implementation study unless the resources outlined in the 1251 report are requested and appropriated and the sequestration mechanism under the Budget Control Act is overturned.
- Prevent the reduction of nuclear warheads on ICBMs to a single warhead unless the President certifies in writing to the congressional defense committees that the Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China are both also carrying out a similar reduction.
- Prohibit the reduction, consolidation, or withdrawal of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons based in Europe unless several very onerous conditions are met.
Rep. Rehberg (R-MT) and Rep. Lummis (R-WY) also offered an amendment on the House floor that would ban any reductions in U.S. strategic delivery systems unless the Secretary of Defense certifies that: 1) further reductions in the Russia Federation’s arsenal are needed for compliance with New START limits; and 2) Russia is not developing or deploying nuclear delivery systems not covered by New START limits. The amendment would also bar eliminating any of the three legs of the nuclear triad. The clear intent of the amendment is to prevent the Pentagon from implementing the New START treaty. The amendment was approved by a vote of 238-162.
In addition, Rep. Price (R-GA) offered an amendment on the House floor that would prohibit the President from unilaterally reducing the size of the US nuclear arsenal unless several extreme conditions are met. The amendment was approved by a vote of 241-179.
II. National Missile Defense (i.e. ground based midcourse defense)
The bill proposes a $460 million increase for the ground based midcourse defense system element above the budget request, including $100 million to begin preparatory work on a missile defense site on the East Coast of the United States to be completed by the end of 2015. Rep. Sanchez (D-CA) and Rep. Garamendi (D-CA) offered amendments in Committee to eliminate these provisions but they were defeated.
Rep. Garamendi submitted a House floor amendment to strike the requirement and funding for the East Coast site but the Rules Committee did not allow the amendment. Rep. Polis (D-CA) and Rep. Sanchez (D-CA) offered an amendment on the House floor to reduce the amount for the ground based midcourse defense system by $403 million but the amendment was defeated by a vote of 165-252.
III. Missile defense cooperation with Russia
The bill would establish limitations on funds to provide Russia with access to U.S. missile defense technology.
IV. Nuclear Material Security
The bill fully funds the National Nuclear Security Administration’s request of $2.5 billion for the Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation account. It also fully funds the Pentagon’s request for the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program. Rep. Sanchez (D-CA) offered an amendment in Committee to add $27 million to the Global Threat Reduction Initiative, which was adopted by voice vote.
Rep. Lamborn (R-CO) offered an amendment on the House floor that would limit the availability of funds for Cooperative Threat Reduction activities with Russia until the Secretary of Defense can certify that Russia is no longer supporting the Syrian regime and is not providing to Syria, North Korea or Iran any equipment or technology that contributes to the development of weapons of mass destruction. Rep. Franks (R-AZ) offered a similar amendment on the House floor that would restrict funds for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s nuclear material security activities with Russia. Both amendments include a Presidential waiver but would still delay the release of funds for these activities until 90 days after the waiver is issued and additional certification requirements are met. The Lamborn amendment was adopted by voice vote. The Franks amendment was adopted by a vote of 241-181.
V. Nuclear Weapons Spending
The bill funds the National Nuclear Security Administration’s request for nuclear weapons activities at $7.9 billion, an increase of approximately $324 million from the requested level. This includes $100 million for the CMRR-NF. The administration’s request included no funding for the CMRR-NF pursuant to its decision to delay construction of the facility for five years. Rep. Sanchez (D-CA) offered an amendment in Committee to strike the additional funding for weapons activities but it failed 23-39. Rep. Polis (D-CO) submitted a similar House floor amendment but was blocked by the Rules Committee.
Rep. Turner (R-OH) offered an amendment in Committee authorizing the Pentagon to take over construction of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility (CMRR-NF) in New Mexico and the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) in Tennessee The amendment was approved 36-25. Turner also offered an amendment requiring construction of the CMRR by 2024, authorizing $160 million in prior-year funds to continue design of the facility, and prohibiting the use of funds to maintain plutonium capabilities that does not include achieving full operational capability for the CMRR by 2024. This amendment was approved 38-24. Rep. Markey (D-MA) and Rep. Sanchez submitted a House floor amendment to strike some of these provisions, but it was not ruled in order by the Rules Committee.
In addition, the bill authorizes a $374 million increase above the requested level for the next generation of nuclear ballistic missile submarines. The Committee also authorized an additional $97 million above the request for the Ohio-class replacement reactor development program within the NNSA Naval Reactors account. Furthermore, it requires the Navy to maintain a minimum of 12 ballistic missile submarines.
The bill includes $292 million for a new long-range, nuclear-capable bomber, and $2 million for a new air launched nuclear cruise missile, as requested. The bill also includes a provision requiring the Secretary of the Air Force to make certain that the bomber will be certified to use nuclear weapons by no later than two years after the plane achieves initial operational capability. Rep. Markey (D-MA) offered an amendment on the House floor that would delay the new long-range bomber program by ten years, but it failed 112-308.
Rep. Larsen (D-WA) and Rep. Sanchez (R-CA) offered an amendment on the House floor requiring a report on the costs of maintaining and modernizing US nuclear forces. The amendment was adopted by a voice vote.
VI. Redeploying tactical Nuclear Weapons in the Western Pacific
Rep. Franks (R-AZ) offered an amendment in Committee that would require the Pentagon to study the potential redeployment of US tactical nuclear weapons and additional conventional weapons in East Asia to deter North Korea. The amendment was approved 32-26. Rep. Johnson (D-GA) offered an amendment on the House floor stating that the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons to South Korea would destabilize the Western Pacific region and would not be in the national security interests of the United States. The amendment failed 160-261.
Kingston Reif is the Director of Nuclear Non-Proliferation at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, where his work focuses on arms control, nuclear nonproliferation, nuclear weapons, and preventing nuclear terrorism. He has published letters and articles on nuclear weapons policy in such venues as the Washington Post, Washington Times, Wall Street Journal, Survival, Defense News, and Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.